Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday Night Special: Steelers Win


The Steelers came out in this game with the "defend every blade of grass" attitude that Tomlin has been preaching all preseason. Obviously, for the starters, it's difficult to get psyched up for a preseason game where you know you're only going to play a few drives. But the third preseason game is different. you know you're going to get a half of football in against their best guys, and you want to go toe-to-toe with them and knock them out. And that's exactly what the Steelers did tonight. James Farrior had a Pro Bowl worthy night, and it was only the preseason.

The game started off with a great omen, as I saw a dude wearing a Greg Goldberg Mighty Ducks t-shirt jersey walking across the Clemente Bridge.

North Hills High School band got some field time before the game. Solid performance.

The offense got the nod for pre-game introductions. There was a much better vibe in the crowd for this game than the last game. Additionally, there were a few more season-ticket holders there, rather than just random people we haven't seen before. Always nice to see some friendly faces.


The Steelers won the toss, and Mike Wallace got to turn on the jets for a nice return out to the 30.

The Steelers were determined to get the running game going tonight, and Mendenhall got the first two touches. Moore converted the 3rd and short with a catch on a dump-down, then Ben found Hines in the seam to get into Buffalo territory. Mendenhall ripped off a 12-yard run on 2nd down and the offense seemed poised to put points on the board. However, Mendenhall got a bad grip on a handoff from Ben, and never had control of the ball when he ran into the backside of Chris Kemoeatu. The ball came out and Buffalo recovered.

Coming into the game, we all knew about Buffalo's no-huddle offense. HOF nominee LeBeau counters by sending out the nickel package to start the game. Buffalo responds by going 3-and-out.

The coaches show their faith in Rashard by going right back to him, but he can't catch a break on first or second down, and despite a great one-handed diving catch by Heath on 3rd down, the Steelers have to punt. Superman hits a solid punt and with penalty yardage added on, the Bills are stuck inside their 20.

The Steelers come out with their base defense, and Buffalo goes to the ground attack. Marshawn Lynch finds a seam and rockets into the open field on 2nd down before Farrior catches him from behind. Scary moment there where Lynch had a lot of open field in front of him, but Farrior (whose name you just might see again) makes the play. After Buffalo got 6 on a quick pass on first down, it looked like their offense might start moving. The Steelers would have none of that. Troy stuffs Lynch in the hole on 2nd down then Edwards air-mails a pass to the sidelines on 3rd down and it's punt city again for Buffalo.

Rising sensation Stefan Logan flashes some skills on the return, darting up to the 30 for a 17-yard return.

After a bad snap on first down and a Mendenhall charge on 2nd, Moore keeps things rolling with another reception over the middle to move across midfield. Mike Wallace flashes speed and agility on an end-around, but it gets nullified by offsetting penalties. Save that one for the season. Limas Sweed bails us out on another 3rd and long, making a fantastic leaping catch in front of Paul Posluszny. The Steelers tread water as the first quarter runs out.

Second Quarter

After a dominating first quarter where the Steelers held the ball for 11 1/2 minutes, we were hungry for some points. We started the second quarter with a 3rd and 10 from the 34, on the very outer reaches of field goal range.

Ben responds by going to the mainstay Hines Ward for the first down. Posluszny is all over the field making tackles on first and second down, then first-round pick Aaron Maybin (another former Nittany Lion) comes up with his first NFL sack. With Reed on the bench with an ankle injury, Piotr Czech comes out and knocks it home.


Buffalo comes back out looking to answer back. Edwards rushes a pass with Harrison bearing down on him and the ball hits Farrior right in the hands. With no one in front of him, Potsie scoots into the end zone for the score.


If anyone's counting, that's Defense 7, Offense 3, Bills 0.

Buffalo's offense hurries-up their way off the field, and Logan makes another good effort on the punt return. When your offense doesn't move the ball, the No Huddle kills your defense.

With the ball near midfield, Ben takes a shot deep for Mike Wallace. Wallace has McKelvin beat to the inside, but Ben throws it to the outside and it falls incomplete. If Ben throws that inside Wallace is gone. After a false start on Essex, Ben hits Hines and Sweed (another spectacular catch), but we come up just short. Ben waves the punt team off and tries to draw the Bills offsides. It appeared a d-lineman jumped, but Hartwig didn't pull the trigger. Timeout. Superman.

With the help of a Steelers penalty, Buffalo is able to get not only one, but two first downs on their next drive. Edwards is going to be having nightmares about Farrior tonight, as Potsie forced an incompletion and dragged Edwards down for a 3rd down sack after Buffalo had crossed their 40.

Pinned back inside the 15, Mendenhall went to work. He made a great openfield cut to get open for a short pass that he took for 13 and a big first down to get out of the shadow of our end zone. Sweed pulls in another solid catch to keep things moving. On first down near midfield, Ben goes for Sweed on the sidelines. Limas makes a great jumping catch, but gets hit in the air and never gets his second foot down. Since the NFL got rid of the "force-out" rule, it's incomplete. Ben comes back by firing one to Hines down the middle for 20 yards, moving us well into Bills territory.

The next play was all Ben being Ben. There's maybe 2 other quarterbacks in the league that make that play. He shrugs off a tackle, eludes a defender, makes a move to scramble, then lobs a pass over an oncoming defender to a wide open Heath Miller for 18 yards.

Two-minute warning

Hines reels one in on the sidelines to set up 3rd and short, and Mendenhall is able to pick it up with a good push from the O-line. Ben looks for Hines on a quick-in across the middle, but the pass is called incomplete. Hines does a great job trying to pretend he made the catch (and in real-time it looked like he did) but the replays showed the ball came out when he hit the ground and the call on the field was right. Ben hands to Mendenhall on a stretch play and the line makes a hole big enough to drive a big rig through, allowing Mendenhall to merenge into the end zone.


Buffalo gets a meaningless play before the half to round out their 4 1/2 minutes in time of possesion. Don't know if they showed the stat on TV or not (probably not since it's KDKA) but Buffalo had a grand total of 3 first downs, 50 yards, and 8:14 in time of possession in the first half.


Patrick Bailey presented with the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, which is annually given to the Steelers Rookie of the Year from the prior season. Patrick had a great year last year and we're really pulling for him to make the team. He was 3rd on the team in Special Teams tackles last season and he's an all-around great guy.

Some jokers try to kick field goals. Wimps only tried from the 5 and 10 yard lines. None from the 15? What kind of joke is this?

Third Quarter

After their terrible first half, Buffalo's first-team offense comes back to get smacked in the mouth some more by the Steelers defense. No surprise, it's another 3-and-out.

Homestead Charlie comes in to lead the 2nd team offense. Justin Vincent sees some extended work on this drive, but looks a lot shakier than he did in the first game. He was moving side-to-side and not hitting the hole hard. Charlie spreads the ball around to 4 different receivers over the drive (Brandon Williams, Dezmond Sherrod, Martin Nance, and Shaun McDonald), moving the Steelers into field goal range. With the ball in the red zone, Arians goes back to the motif offense, which loses yardage and results in a field goal try. Piotr misses from 40, and the offense comes away empty.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, who we lovingly nicknamed Erin last season when he played for the Bungles because of his incredibly Irish name, came in at quarterback. By virtue of a 17-yard pass, a longer play than the Bills had at all in the first half, Erin moved the Bills across the 50 for the first time in the game. Keyaron Fox made the receiver pay for that one, dishing out a bone-crushing hit that the guy next to me described as "that hurt him again when he watched the replay."

Erin gets them to 3rd and 1, but the Bills can't convert against the Steelers D, then commit a false start when they try to line up to go for it on 4th down.

Isaac Redman came into the game at running back and got a lion's share of the work, including a check-down pass after a hold on Jeremy Parquet that he turned upfield, cut back across the middle, and almost took back to the sticks for 19 yards.

Fourth Quarter

The Steelers continued to dominate in ball control, holding it for almost 11 minutes in the third quarter, further keeping Buffalo's offense on the bench.

A false start penalty on Capizzi sets the Steelers back and Batch goes deep down the middle for Williams, but he tries to make a diving catch (when he could have caught it in stride) and can't hang on to the ball. Batch threw some really nice passes out there tonight. Good looking accuracy from our #2. Superman.

The Bills go 3-and-out again, this defensive stand highlighted by Arnold Harrison and Donovan Woods splitting a sack.

Logan rips off a great return, getting across midfield. Mike Reilly comes in to take the reigns, which at this point pretty much means handing the ball off. Redman picks up a first down to move closer to field goal range, but can't pick up a 4th and 1 at the 27, giving the ball back to the Bills.

With 8 minutes to go and the Steelers running in 3rd stringers, Buffalo put together their only legitimate drive of the game. Erin uses the no-huddle to move the team up the field, capped off by a scramble to get the Bills inside the 20 for the first time all game with 4 1/2 to go. Joe Burnett almost jumps a route on first down, and Keenan Lewis makes a good open-field tackle on 3rd down to hold the Bills to a field goal. But Joe Burnett comes out of nowhere and blocks the kick, preserving the shutout for the defense.

Reilly makes a good pass to David Johnson on the sideline after the two-minute warning to pick up a first down and seal the deal.

Players of the Game:

Offensive Game Ball: Rashard Mendenhall
Defensive Game Ball: James Farrior

Honorable Mentions:
Ben Roethlisberger
Hines Ward
Limas Sweed
Joe Burnett
Stefan Logan
Willie Colon
Keyaron Fox

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game:

Pre-snap Penalties
Honestly, there wasn't a whole lot not to like about this game, so we have to agree with Coach here. The Steelers had 6 penalties on the night, 3 of which were pre-snap. Those can be easily avoided.

Final Thoughts
  • Dominating performance by the defense. Buffalo was 0-8 on third downs, and only had 135 net yards.
  • Time of possession: PIT 41:15, BUF 18:45
  • Stefan Logan might take someone's roster spot.
  • Keyaron Fox is playing great. He'll be an excellent addition to the ILB rotation. It's going to be hard to get him on the field, but he's an asset when he's there.
  • Sweed catches anything that isn't thrown right at his numbers.
  • Posluszny is a beast. Maybin has some skills and will grow into a solid player. Good to see the PSU guys having success in the NFL.
  • Farrior makes the Pro Bowl again.
  • The Steelers have never had a losing season in the last 10 years when they won at least 2 preseason games. All 3 non-winning seasons were after preseasons where they were 1-3 or 0-4. More details on this tomorrow.
  • We are going to cut guys that could be starters on other NFL rosters.

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